Therefore, looking at how this team will retool heading into 2013, it may be difficult for a personnel standpoint to determine who stays and who goes.
If everyone played to their potential consistently, the Giants would be preparing for a playoff matchup today, not cleaning out their lockers.
As a result, expect to see many of the same faces back next year, with maybe a few additions or subtractions. Here’s a look at who will stay and who will go on offense.
Obviously this is Eli Manning’s team. But it’s always important to have a capable backup, just in case Manning goes down with injury. David Carr has been that for the past few years, but he will be a free agent.
Most likely, no team will give Carr a starting gig, so I think Carr will be re-signed as the backup quarterback.
Ahmad Bradshaw is signed through 2014, so he’ll be back barring a trade. But no one will trade for the oft-injured back.
David Wilson showed some of his potential as the season progressed, so hopefully his role increases in 2013.
The Giants will certainly need a third running back. Ryan Torain and Kregg Lumpkin are free agents, but with Bradshaw’s injury history, Big Blue needs a viable third option (similar to they days of Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward). Most likely, Torain and Lumpkin are out.
Andre Brown emerged as that option until suffering a broken fibula in late November. He’s a free agent, and a successful recovery can give the Giants the X-factor they lacked down the stretch. Brown, Bradshaw and Wilson (all healthy of course) can be a dangerous trio.
Henry Hynoski will back as fullback and as one of the team’s unsung heroes.
Eventually, the Giants and Victor Cruz will agree to a long-term deal that pays him handsomely for his success on the field.
Hakeem Nicks is also locked up for all of next season. When he’s healthy, this is a different team, but playing without Nicks for a portion of this season proved detrimental.
Obviously, those are the top two targets, but from there, the Giants will have some questions to answer.
Rueben Randle and Jerrel Jernigan are signed through 2014. Randle showed spurts of being a reliable receiver this season, and he’ll likely compete for more of a role next season.
Jernigan however has yet to reach his potential as both as receiver and a special teams player. He’ll need to step up in training camp if he wants to keep his job.
Domenik Hixon and Ramses Barden will be free agents. Like Nicks, Hixon is a valuable asset when healthy. But he just hasn’t been able to stay on the field consistently. I think the Giants will move on from Hixon since there might be another team willing to take a chance on him to see if he can stay healthy.
Barden meanwhile had a huge game against Carolina in his only start this season. It’s tough to backup Nicks and Cruz, but unless another team views him as a starter, Barden will likely be retained. If Hixon signs elsewhere though, Barden’s role would increase, and he’ll need to be ready.
Martellus Bennett was a pleasant surprise this season. He’s a free agent, and the Giants would be wise to re-sign him. He’s not going to be Tony Gonzalez, but with Nicks and Cruz healthy, Bennett provides Manning with a capable third option.
Travis Beckum and Bear Pascoe are free agents. The Giants have young tight end Adrien Robinson waiting in the wings. He’s been called the “Jason Pierre-Paul” of tight ends due to his athleticism, and we might get the chance to see that next season.
Maybe the Giants will retain one of either Beckum or Pascoe and give Robinson a chance to contribute. Most likely, Big Blue will keep Pascoe since he can double as a blocking fullback. Plus Beckum will be coming off an injury.
There was much shifting along the Giants’ offensive line this season, and for the most part, the unit played well. But the shifting didn’t allow the unit to get into a rhythm.
As of know, Chris Snee, David Diehl and David Baas will be back, meaning the Giants will need a tackle and a guard. Kevin Boothe is a free agent, and he is a candidate for the guard spot.
But Will Beatty is likely gone, since he’s a free agent and seemed to be the weak link along the line. Broncos’ tackle Ryan Clady is a free agent, and he may be the Giants’ top offseason target.
Sean Locklear played well when healthy this year, and if he is willing to accept a reserve role, he can be brought back. James Brewer, Jim Cordle and Selvish Capers are all free agents, and they would provide much-needed depth along the line.
The 2013 offense is going to look similar to this season, and if the unit is consistent, the team will compete for the playoffs.
A healthy return of Andre Brown and the emergence of Randle and Robinson as offensive weapons can be exactly what this team needs, rather than exploring the free-agent market, which includes several players with hefty price tags. Adding a big-time offensive tackle like Clady would stabilize the line.
Of the two main units, it’s the defense more so than the offense that needs a makeover.
Follow Jim Mancari on Twitter @JMMancari.